Sunday 6 August
Once the rain eased, l’arrêt was brought into commission to putter the crew ashore to explore the delights of Portree. In spite of the hype Mate read in the tourist brochure, they didn’t find it especially inspiring, but a little too ‘tacky touristy’, with one notable exception:
Skye Batiks on The Green – beautiful hand-woven fabrics made into practical, functional tops and accessories, as well as pretty batik prints for skirts, pants and more. Ethical, honest, genuine interesting people and great coffee!
Sometimes Mate’s motivation for wanting to visit a particular place verges on the completely barmy. We know ‘Rona’ as a training vessel based on the South Coast of England, that was crewed by a schoolfriend of Second Mate while the latter was enjoying trips aboard ‘John Laing’. Here it is an island between Skye and the mainland, with an anchorage renowned as one of the most beautiful on the West Coast of Scotland. Not surprisingly, it was very busy with moored boats, but the wet and windy weather discouraged my crew from venturing ashore to explore.
Saturday 5 August
The seals were basking in the sunshine as we raised the anchor to depart for Loch Alsh and the Skye Bridge. Yesterday we enjoyed a high level fly past by a couple of military jets; this morning they were obviously suspicious as they came straight at us up the loch, very low, very large and very noisy: balls of steel and phenomenally quick reactions in this land of high peaks and low cloud.
Today was a day of glassy calm sea and no wind, an opportunity for reflection and realisation for Mate, that she’s becoming accustomed to the weather, wind and sea state, worrying less about water and food stocks, and enjoying moving frequently to new places.
Skye was high on her list of destinations for this season, and has exceeded all expectations: the scenery is magnificent, and the people friendly. It only falls short of perfection through a lack of sighting of the elusive sea eagle, and less than spectacular weather. It’s already beginning to feel like Autumn’s in the air, and the nights are noticeably drawing in at this Northern latitude.
It was good to simply pick up a mooring buoy, without drama, in Portree Harbour, toss together a quick stir fry for supper, and retire early in anticipation of a good night’s sleep.
Friday 4 August
The laundry was up to date, the provisions stowed and the passage plan said it was time to leave – shame about the weather: another typically dreich day with thick mist quickly saturating the sad helm. After a warming lunch of Skye Beans (see Recipe page), the rain eased and the mist lifted, revealing the mouths of Lochs Nevis (Heaven) and Hourn (Hell), and the Sound of Sleat leading to the beautiful Kyle of Lochalsh. Accompanied by several small groups of harbour porpoise, seals and a deer were also spotted en route. We anchored in a beautiful little cove opposite probably the most photographed castle in Scotland: Eilean Donan, and were checked out by the local otter. The resident colony of around 14 seals seemed bored by our presence.
After sunset it was completely still, and Mate returned to the cockpit to try to photograph the castle, beautifully floodlit. She was enchanted by the sound of a lone bagpiper standing in a gateway of the castle, apparently serenading her alone, as the haunting strains drifted across the water. Definitely one of the season’s highlights.
Tuesday 1 – Thursday 3 August
Deciding against taking the dinghy ashore for possible laundry and provisions, my crew opted instead for a lovely reach across to Mallaig, cutting a swathe through a huge flock of sheerwaters taking a break on the sea. Unfortunately the glorious conditions didn’t last, as the squall they’d been monitoring on its approach from the South caught up with us just before we made the entrance of the harbour, and we all got thoroughly wet. We also had to wait for the ferry to exit the channel, but soon found a comfortable finger pontoon bows-to the wind.
We found Mallaig to be a pleasant town with friendly boat neighbours in the harbour, and all amenities the wandering yachtsman could wish for. There were even opportunities for a little light retail therapy, so Mate was happy too.
Fresh fish and seafood from Andy Race Fish Merchants in Station Road
Fabulous baked goods from Bakehouse alongside Marina facilities building:
gluten free chocolate cake to die for, and delicious chunky sausage rolls